Adventures with EDM

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is a music genre which is closely related to Indonesian’s negative judgment. That is because this music genre is associated to the night life which closes to a lot of dilapidated activities such as alcohol and drug abuse. The beat of rhythm presented could provoke almost entire audiences to dance, to forget their wearied days for a while. Though, It maybe commonly believe that this music could help the audiences to forget about their problems of life, yet, the interest of studying this musical genre remains unpopular among scholars.

The emergence of EDM in Indonesia, however, can be seen as a picture of complex relation on the societies who start to look for their new identity in the middle of chaos between ideology, politic, and power. Its participation in the world of popular music industry, then, is seen by the postmodernists as a tendency to explicitly mix many music genres consciously. This mixture ranges from a direct re-mix of the recorded song while adding it by the other instrumentations, sounds, and musical tastes, in order to create a new subcultural identity. In this case, subculture identity is symbolically expressed in the style of creative process which is not merely standing as an opposition to hegemony or the way out from social tension.

EDM Festival enlivening Indonesian music market is a legitimation of EDM’s grandiose party, as like a magnificent carnival, in which all of the sounds stand on one and only rhythm. There is no higher race among others; there is no man and woman, each individual gather all together. Laugh and social hierarchy melts away and limitlessly assimilate on the beat of rhythm.


The shine of EDM as a new popular music genre is unavoidable. Night club, recently, is not a solely place where EDM lives, yet it has began to spread along to the other public spaces, such as mall playing this music genre as a soundscape. Television and radio also present EDM as selected song lists loved by audiences. EDM existence has passed trough cultural borders within many cultural spaces.

2016 billboard chart shows the domination of EDM songs which has taken almost 90 per cent of that chart. The big question is how EDM is able to break trough the limitation of audiences’ musical taste. While, it is a clear paradox when, lately, EDM presents its new stars such as Calvin Harris, Martin Garix, Marshmello, etc., considering that EDM existence as a subculture brought along by the working class supposes to deny the scene of rock star.

In Indonesia, EDM existence is still debatable. Particularly viewed as moral degrading over negative stigma, it keeps spreading persistently. That makes the spread is unseen yet could be felt. Public space such as mall presenting EDM as soundscape to create a modern image likes Orchard streets Singapore, Bukit Bintang Malaysia, Kaverstraat Amsterdam, and so on. Malls in Indonesia plays Calvin Harris ft. Rihana or Martin Garix’s song played simultaneously so those becomes familiar on the visitors’ ears.

EDM offered by the DJs with its popular stars becomes references for DJ’s local body in Indonesia. Undeniable cultural contact makes this music genre to be new references for local bodies that is close to embodying culture. Marzuki Mohammad (Kill the DJ) is one of them, a musician from Yogyakarta enlivens Indonesia’s EDM scene by performing children songs that are sung on rap within EDM beat. DJ’s scene offering locality lubricates EDM to gain new journeys trough every limit. The resonance over culture relating to the society on the particular space becomes questions that would be revealed.


‘Verse I’

The movie of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 (shortened AADC 2), just released some time ago, presents Yogyakarta as one of its settings. As a locus enriched by plenty cultural texts, some local texts are chosen to strengthen the nuances of the city. Ora Minggir Tabrak song is one of them. This playful children song is represented as hip-hop song of EDM (Elctric Dance Music) mode by Kill the DJ and Libertaria as a soundtrack of AADC 2 movie.

Kill the DJ and LIbertaria appear in a scene portraying a glamorous atmosphere cannot be separated from the action of the DJ (Disk Jockey), a title given to a skillful person in choosing and playing musical records to create a sort of musical journey for the audience. A DJ acts as a controller and selector of music to be played in accordance with the atmosphere as well as the type of music to be played. In the process of selecting the songs, the DJ will combine particular technical skills with knowledge in the field of music in order to create a spectacular live show loved by the audience. The glamorous night life is certainly a “reality” sign of an image of a modern city.

Boshe (a club in Yogyakarta) on 3 May 2016 presented a program entitled “Locally Session” displaying “Ora Minggir Tabrak” sung by DJ Tehara as one of the leading songs to send a signal that the entertaining evening would soon come to an end marked by increasingly louder beats. A simple tone of the song got a spectacular response from the audience. The “Ora Minggir Tabrak” song is a Javanese song sung by children while they are playing and now get a particular place and sung for a different need. Through AADC 2 movie, the slowly disappearing children song, recently gets its comeback and become the hit that needed to be responded quickly by businessmen running entertainment places to meet the market demand. “Ora Minggir Tabrak” has regained popularity in such a short time. Now, art has become more integrated in the economy and been used to encourage people to consume through a big role played by commercials, in addition to the fact that art has become a separate commercial goods (Dominic Strinati, 2007).

The morality panic remains lingering around whenever the glamorous night life being discussed. The morality panic is understood as a media movement resulted from the perception that an individual, a group, or a culture with divert outlook could create a threat to the public (Stanley Cohen, 1972). However, postmodernism has broken some partitions to enable people looking deeper into the glamorous night life. The children song “Ora Minggir Tabrak” becomes a subject to be considered in how to get through these borders; how to arrange this playful children song in order to satisfy the taste of the market in form of EDM which later used as a soundtrack for a movie?

The children song “Ora Minggir Tabrak” packaged interestingly into the format of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) music genre is an interesting innovation in the hustle bustle of the Indonesian music market. The innovation is related with collage, pastiche (art work), and quotations, a combination of different genres—musically and historically—coupled with random and selective combining.

EDM as a music genre which has undergone some decreasing moments before finally has regained its popularity. The history recorded that the EDM is started in 1970, and according to Rawley Bornstein, an MTV programmer, “EDM is the new rock and roll”. This idea has become a reality since the EDM is not segmented any more, and almost every minute the radio play the EDM songs, even also a national TV station (Net TV) once ran a program to search new DJ talents program, called The Re-Mix, and a good number of festivals organized for this music genre. Nowadays, the DJs perform as if they were rock stars.

In the beginning, the EDM is an electronic music produced to be played at night clubs, or places used for people to dance. The Electronic Dance Music is usually categorized on beat per minute (BPM). The slowest EDM tempo is between 60 and 90 BPM, while the genre such as speed core may surpass the level of 240 BPM. The EDM movement appeared when the disco music started to leave the process of composing by way of traditional orchestration, and began using electronic musical instruments, such as synthesizer and drum machine in the 1970s. In those era, many producers and DJs conducted experimentations using blend mixing technique (Bennet, 2001), by combining several discs so as to produce new sounds with different tonal texture. Later on, this technique further developed following technological development.

The EDM developed in line with the development of space and time. Ibiza, a town in Balearic island of Spain, had explored local texts and developed them into Balearic beatnow a very popular beat in EDM genre. Balearic is a place surrounded by beautiful beaches and has become a very popular tourist destination in Europe, making Ibiza crowded by tourists, a town now dotted by a lot of resorts and beach clubs. A beach club in Ibiza, to quote a brochure, offers a ‘rave party’ clubbing, starting from dusk until dawn, giving birth to the local-styled EDM following the demand of the market. And the Balearic beat became a subgenre known widely and attracted the attention of beach clubs in other areas. In addition to that, the Balearic beat recording industry got a tremendous response from the market. Almost all beach clubs all over the world now make Balearic beat as soundtrack at times when the club doesn’t organized a musical event. Even a popular beach club in Bali also uses Balearic beat as a room soundscape when there is no DJ presented.

By the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s, in Detroit, emerged another subgenre of EDM. The noise of the city became a reference in the innovation process. The ‘Industrial Noise’ is a sign of urban life similar to street soundscape, factory machine, shopping mall, and the noise of the city became the basic idea for the development of EDM music, and this subgenre later known as techno music. It developed rapidly in the dense cities with full of noises. It is assumed that Duesseldorf, an industrial city in Germany, is the home for the development of techno music. Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, the students of classical music, who were frustrated by the classical music training in the conservatory, started to conduct experiments by playing music using computers which enabled them to compose music with high level of complexity combined with soundscape available in Duesseldorf, Germany (Gill, 1977). Hutter and Schneider then established a techno music group called Kraftwerk known until nowadays and recorded in the EDM history.

In Indonesia, the EDM enjoyed reasonable development. It could be seen through the spreading of EDM festivals all over the country. In 2008, Blowfish Warehouse Project tried to attract Indonesian’s market, and it changed its name to Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP). Organized by Ismaya Live, the DWP seemed to become a “big holiday” for music lovers. Since 2008 until recently, the DWP programs continue to attract the audience; it even has become the biggest EDM festival in the world starred by world known DJs and EDM musicians and attended by thousands of spectators.

In addition to the DWP, the EDM festival which attracted the local as well as foreign audience was Dreamfield taking place at Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Bali. Since first organized in 2014, it was attended—according to a record—by more than ten thousand spectators. Besides the Dreamfield, another EDM festival organized in Bali since early 1999 was Ultra Music Festival.

The EDM development in Indonesia is marked by the organization of international festivals attended by thousands of spectators and also the broadcasting of DJ talents hunter by TV stations. The Re-Mix, a competition format program broadcast by Net TV, was also an obvious presence of the EDM in Indonesia. This program is an adaptation of a similar show which has gained a big success in television programs in Vietnam in early 2015. With the capital as a background, the television program seemed to be interested more in taking and recycling the trend rather than spreading the innovations deemed financially risky. The success of the EDM competition in Vietnam led Tripar Multivision as the producer of The ReMix being confident to organize it in Indonesia. Of course, the confidence was also based on the “reality” of the lifestyle trend in the society. Television programs are signs that could be called the social texts (Danesi, 2008). Those texts represent various values in the society.


The digital technology has opened the way for the emergence of a new era in sound recording. The analogue tape machine has been replaced by computer. The computer has the ability to store and produce sound recording far more accurate that the old analogue recording machine and can produce elements different from ‘white noise’, even though frequently considered as imperfection, but nonetheless it gives a nuance of color to the recording itself. The digital technology has also facilitated a number of other things during the recording process, including making samples of various kinds of short music utilizing keyboard or synthesizerdrum pad, and also including the voice using microphone which later kept in the MIDI form. Various instruments were combined altogether so as to prepare a composition and kept in the computer memory. The samples might be manipulated as a source of sound at an unimaginable scale. The sampling technique provides an effective way in taking sound from the origin and repeats them into pieces in order to produce a new music.

The EDM’s presence in the world popular music industry—seen from the viewpoint of postmodernism—is a trend leading to explicit and blunt combination of various kinds of musical trends and genre in direct and conscious way (Hebdige, 1987). This combination includes the repetition of combining songs recorded from the same era or otherwise on the same recording, until it ‘arrives’ to be a music, e.g. sound and different instruments targeting to create a new subcultural identity.

Creativity in EDM has resulted in a changing role of musician, particularly the DJs. A DJ can do re-mixing of the available voices of artists and makes new interpretation by processing and rearranging them to become a new trend. This situation shows the blurring role of musician in the production process of EDM. A DJ right now can claim her/himself as composer, arranger, producer, and musician/player altogether.

This is an interesting subject to discuss, especially viewed from postmodernism approach—that it is not only music which has been so mixed beyond limit, but also the role of the musicians, in this case also the blurring role of DJ. It is definitely different from rock band or conventional music group. The shifting role brings consequence to a DJ. DJ Melechi (1993) states that the young generation fed up with the convention of rock performance leads to the emergence of scene without a star, a performance, and identification (Bennet, 2001). As a status, a DJ has the possibility to throw away the convention on prestige and the praise frequently received by a rock star.

Thus, the subculture identity is formed in line with the postmodernism surround it. Subculture is understood as a cultural symptom generally formed based on age and class. Symbolically, it is expressed in the form of the creation of style and not only a resistance against the hegemony or a way out of social strains (Chris Baker, 2008).

The DWP and the Dreamfield—which play their role in the music market in Indonesia—provide a legitimate EDM festivity. DWP, DreamfieldUltra and a lot more EDM events resemble a carnival in which all voices are in one rhythm. There is no race higher that the other, no men and women, all persons united in togetherness. Laughter and social hierarchy merge and mix without limits in the rhythmal beat.

‘Verse 2’

Back to the ‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’ in EDM genre, presented by Kill the DJ initiated by Marzuki Mohammad (the founder of Jogja Hip-Hop Foundation) who admitted that he was inspired by his experiences in his childhood. The song, according to Marzuki Mohammad in an interview, “It fits for AADC 2 because life is just like that. If you don’t give way you will be hit.” The same also today, we cannot remain being ignorant while time and life are moving on (Marzuki, 30 April 2016).

Kill the DJ started his career in music in 2001, and established Jogja Hip-Hop Foundation (JHF) in 2003. Marzuki admitted that the development of rave party in Yogyakarta had been the main reason why he chose the EDM way. The name Kill the DJ has been selected because of his refusal against an idol (DJ) and that it was about time to inspire his own life with what he has gone through, so that JHF is there to provide a space without a wall providing shelter for the hip hop lovers in Yogyakarta (Marzuki, 23 July 2014). Yogyakarta with the Javanese culture knows pantun (traditional poetry) called parikan, and later it has been developed by JHF and used as song lyrics.

The AADC 2, a movie catering the young generation, directed by Riri Riza, related on the friendship of four girls with their respective love stories. One of them was Cinta. The story began when the four girls went on vacation to Yogyakarta. The city has quite a number of attractive tourist destinations to visit. Unluckily, the first place they visited was a night club, not the keraton (palace) and other historic places. Rave party was the first scene of tourist destination visited by the four girls.

As an attractive entertainment, rave party is rarely discussed, even though in reality, street banners offer entertainment and drinks appeared on the corners across the city. There is one thing that makes it easier to differentiate between Yogyakarta and Jakarta. In Jakarta, the metropolitan city, particularly along the main streets from the airport to the city center of Sudirman-Thamrin area, in several places one likely spot ballyhoos or street banners announcing religious gathering, such as religious classes delivered by certain Habibs (Muslim clerics) and other religious events. On the contrary, in Yogyakarta, a city considered of culture and education, it is difficult to find similar street banners. There are a lot of banners and ballyhoos on night entertainment offering music, (sexy) dance and alcoholic drinks which—in many cases—the prices are even mentioned straight away. In fact, this is not a phenomenon, because since the beginning of the new millennia, similar banners have appeared in many entertainment places in Yogyakarta.

‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’ sung by Kill the DJ in a rave party scene, has a lot of meanings if it is analyzed as a text. The parikan usually used in the children songs has changed its meanings and functions when applied in different spaces. If we look deeper into the ‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’, the lyric has a philosophically penetrating meaning in the context of the recent social condition.

Following is the lyric of ‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’:

Minggir Ra Minggir Tabrak (give way otherwise will be hit)

Mijil-tuwuh, urip-urip, muksa-pati (born-develop, live and to live, disappear-die)

Esuk-awan, surup-sirep, rina-wengi (morning-noon, twilight-disappearing, noon-evening)

Saiki, neng kene, ngene, dilakoni (now, here, like this, undergo)

Semeleh, kudu gelem, lan nggelemi (sincere, should be willing, and willing)

Wiji wutuh, wutah pecah, pecah tuwuh, wiji maneh (seeds are intact, fell and broken, broken and grow, again become seed)

Laku, lakon, dilakoni kanthi semeleh (behave, behavior, play, do it sincerely)

Obah mamah, mingset nggeget, nyikut nggrawut, ngglethak penak (move and eat, disparaging and biting, elbowing scratching, lie down comfortably)

Nggir ra minggir tabrak wong urip kudhu tumindak (give way otherwise will be hit, life should be gone through)

That lyrics sounds connected to a larger social condition in Yogyakarta, the presence of rave party in a city with cultural identity still considered honorable, clearly it provides two things which are contradictory, but life is still going on, and the economic struggle ought to be taken into account. The market demands the presence of a new room that offers freedom.


‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’ as a text analyzed with a critical approach. The EDM genre song in a move soundtrack narrating on a touristic trip in Yogyakarta in rave party scene indicates a “reality” on the presence of night entertainment place as a tourist destination in Yogyakarta that should be thoroughly considered.

The circulated moral panic has been attacked by the market demand. In his article, “Dunia Lain di Yogyakarta: Dari Jatilan hingga Musik Elektronik” (Another World in Yogyakarta: From Jatilan to Electronic Music), Max Ritcher said that electronic music has created a temporary autonomous zone, which has liberated the participants from the shackles of the state and the commercial power. Performances in commercial zones in Yogyakarta, to a certain level, allow participants to challenge and go beyond the role of gender limited by the state conservatism and the global commercialization of commodity (Ariel Heryanto, 2012). Right now, the image of women has been liberated from the shackles of moral set-up. The four girls in AADC 2 have stressed that the dance floors belong to whoever wants to dance. The moral shackles seem to have been broken by space-time. ‘Ora Minggir Tabrak’ textually referred to that matter.


The EDM has explored the world of the young generation in various forms in line with space and time. Starting from a disco club and then spread like epidemic without borders throughout the world. As a culture of the young generation, EDM is very fluid, many formations are entwined which is beyond any efforts to map out its presence.

EDM as a culture of the young generation has broken the tone in the legitimate festivity of a carnival in which all sounds are represented in one and only rhythm. There is no race higher than another, there are no men and women, all persons are united in togetherness. Laughter and social hierarchies are melt in the beating of the rhythm. The Electronic Dance Music offers resistance and freedom.


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